By Patty Wilber
Over the course of the two rounds of chemo that I have been doing since October, 2022, I have held up decently, and no one side effect has been unmanageable, but after all these months of little thing after little thing, I have gotten mentally and physically worn down. While the twelve weeks of weekly Taxol and monoclonal antibody treatments were far easier than the four doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide over eight weeks, twelve weeks is a decently long time, and the effects have been a bit cumulative. The last three treatments have been somewhat harder.
I have treatments on Thursdays. Last week, on Saturday and Sunday, my brain felt heavy and foggy, and I was dragged-out tired. Chemo fatigue is weird. My muscles had no power and most things felt like too much effort! And that made me want to whine about myriad other side effects I have had. As mentioned above, no one side effect has been all that bad, but geez, over these last few weeks, sometimes it feels like all I think about is my next doctor appointment and what side effect is most annoying. Here’s a list.
- Mild neuropathy in my hands and feet. I had to reduce by Taxol dose to 80% to control it.
- I went bald everywhere except my eyebrows and eye lashes! Hair on my head is starting to make a come back! I don’t know if it is curly yet, but it is definitely white.
- I am cold a lot of the time.
- My eyes are dry and scratchy.
- My nose is dry and bloody.
- My skin is dry and tight.
- My ear tips dried right out and got little sores.
- All the dry scaly places that the dermatologist called actinic keratoses got inflamed and I had little sores all over my arms and back–but hey now they no longer are a dermatology problem! (I will see the dermatologist 2/24, because I need more doctor appointments–that makes five this week.)
- My gut has gone on slow mo, until suddenly it is not on slow mo.
- My ears are ringing.
- My thumb nails are going to fall off. (But they do not have nasty discharge–the nurse asked about that.)
- I gained weight over the first set of treatments, then felt more normal, but am back into weight gain over the last month–maybe due to my random gut function. My pants are too tight! I find my tight clothes especially disheartening.
- I feel like I am stuffed up to my chin when I have not eaten much.
- Two urinary tract infections.
- Cystitis (pain issues with the bladder and urinary tract independent of infection).
- A tooth infection.
- Low white blood cell counts, but I avoided any illnesses except infections.
- Stomach aches, mostly in the first round.
- Brain fog.
- Muscles that have very little power.
- Lack of stamina.
- Fizzy drinks are too fizzy!
- Iced drinks are too cold!
- I can’t drink alcohol!
Most of the time I can go on and do just fine, at a slower rate than I used to, but I am tired of being tired and not feeling like myself! Whine-O-rama. Maybe I can have some cheese with a non-alcoholic wine!
To make matters even more whine-worthy, the weather has stayed cold and overcast far longer than I wanted, and my prediction about last week’s snow being gone soon was NOT spot on. There was more snow than it seemed and it was a lot wetter than I realized! We became a melting, icy, muddy, snowy mess. I was not able to get any good rides all last week, including the weekend.
This week, on Monday, I was perking up energy-wise after the weekend. I gave up trying to ride at home and hauled to the Sandia Vista arena.
The forecast had called for huge wind, which did not show up until Wednesday, but on Monday, there was just a nice breeze! It was in the 50’s! There was sun! Soooo pleasant! There was that little part where I was posting at the trot for a while and my legs turned to Jello, but hey.
Rip is hauling well by himself and is braver in new places. The only things that had him a little edgy were the woman walking a mastiff that was about as big as Rip, and Jim coming out of the Port-a-Pot! We plan to get some cow coaching with Darren Miller next week!
On Tuesday, I had hoped to ride in the afternoon but ended up with an extra doctor appointment for a urine culture. The first visit was an MRI and the second was with the surgeon who revealed that the MRI showed…drum roll…
NO CANCER!!! The chemo worked!!
Does this mean I can skip the last Taxol? Nope. But the high resolution MRI showed NO CANCER! Cancer all gone!
Unfortunately, we still need to do surgery, radiation and maintenance chemo to make sure there are not any stray cells that could not be detected and cause a reoccurrence.
Wednesday, that big wind arrived (gusts up to 70 mpg!), the temperature plummeted, and we had snow and whiteout conditions on and off all afternoon due to the blowing snow. Total accumulation was not too much, though.
I did the last Taxol Thursday! That was my last chemo for probably about three months! Ya hoo! (And the cancer is gone, did I mention?) My body will start returning to normal, I hope! Maybe my pants will loosen up! And spring and sun and longer days and warmer temperatures are nearly here!
Thursday afternoon was nice and Rip and I worked the flag. He is not all et up over following the flag like H was. He is more like Lucy: relaxed. Lucy has gotten better and more dynamic every year, so I am good with relaxed! Rip rolls over his hocks to the right really well. To the left I am getting in his way some. I also need to get him stopping softer and loading up on his hind end better so he can float across with the cow (flag) and be ready to go after the flag.
So, to summarize, despite the annoyance of all those pesky side effects, on most days I was able to do most things, and the medications (i.e. poisons) WORKED! The cancer is gone!!